Lecture on 34th World Telecom Day by Lt Gen Prakash Gokarn

Introduction :

Honorable Shri V D Gupta GM WR, and distinguished members of the audience.  I thank the four Chairmen of IETE, IRSTE, IEEE & IEE for joining hands to celebrate the 34thWorld Telecom Day.

I spent 20 years of my early life in a bungalow less than 1000 yds. from this location.  As a boy, I was always awestruck by the architecture of this magnificent edifice which symbolizes the character of the Indian Railways today.  As I grew up in the Army, my awe for the Railway has multiplied.  The role that the Railways have played, in the fast and smooth logistic movement of defence forces from the North East and the hinterland to our Western borders in times of crisis warrants our unqualified admiration.

In peacetime also, Railways were one of the first to exploit the power of Information Technology & Communications (ICT) by incorporating a complex software and put in place an efficient system for superb real-time ticketing & reservation which has been a great boon to the common man, and more particularly our brave soldiers who have to proceed on leave from far flung areas.

The Railway Signaling & Telecommunication System has been modernized by the intelligent exploitation of a network of digital microwave and optical fiber systems – to help build a high-tech ICT infrastructure in the country.  By extending into remote areas, particularly the North East, Railways have played a major role in bridging the Nation’s Digital Divide.

The very fact that Shri V D Gupta GM Western Railways has graced this occasion shows his concern and interest in exploiting Information Technology & Communication.  Indeed no leader worth his salt, can succeed in any field in the 21st Century without exploiting the wonders of ICT.

 INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES FOR ALL

EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO CROSS THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

 

 Slide 1 : ICT  for All.gif

 As we are all well aware, people all over the world are becoming increasingly dependant on ICT’s or information and communications technologies – from radio and telephones to television and internet.  Unwittingly, we are using one form of technology or the other to obtain on daily information needs – be it the news, the market, education, health weather or travel and tourism and of course banking.

Unfortunately the availability of ICT infrastructure is not evenly distributed in the world and hence a knowledge gap has developed between ‘information poor’ and ‘information rich’ countries, an imbalance between urban and rural areas and even between younger & older generations, & in some societies, between men and women.

This technological inequality between individuals, societies and nations is known as the digital divide.  Since the availability of ICT, whether   mobile telephones, Personal computers & internet , are tools generating wealth & prosperity, in accessibility to these devices can deepen  economic disparities.

Recent statistics based on a report known as “The Missing Link” bring out

a)                  70% of the worlds poor have little access to ICTs leave alone a telephone.

b)                  Consequently over 1/3 of the world’s population has NEVER made a telephone call.

c)                  The developed world has 50% telephone lines per 100 people.  In developing countries the ratio is 1-4 telelines per 100 people.

d)                  Most of the information exchanged on Internet  is in English – a language spoken  by just 10% of the world’s population.

It is also a reality that the power of Information technology  & telecommunications has given birth to globalised economy which will greatly influence the economy of nations.

It is therefore not an exaggeration to state that when the NewYork Stock Exchange sneezes, the brokers and investors of Dalal street catch a cold.  The all pervading nature of ICTs therefore offers a golden opportunity to raise the large masses of people  to higher levels of education, health & prosperity.

In the new order of world trade & commerce, through its inherent strengths in the fields of ICT, India needs to power itself up front as a strong industrial & trading nation.

 Slide 2: ITU.gif

 In his new year message on 31 Dec., 2002, Mr Yoshio Utsumi Secretary General of the International Telecom Union (ITU) said

“The speed of information and communications Technologies especially the Internet is revolutionizing whole aspects of social, cultural and economic life.  ICT’s are creating many opportunities to improve our quality of life. But because of their uneven spread, also creating new challenges notably the emergence of a digital divide”

–         Yoshio Utsumi

Slide 3 :  World Summit.gif

 

Taking the cue from the ITU, United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annnan in his millennium message to all Governments and Private Sector round the world, supported the initiative of the ITU to convene a World Summit on a Global Information society. Its first phase will take place in Geneva from 10-12 Dec 2003 and the second in Tunis in 2005. He said  – “This global gathering will be a unique opportunity for all key players to develop a shared vision of ways to bridge the digital divide and create a truly global information society.”

While unfolding the state of US economy in the year 2000-2001, US Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan said “Our nation has been experiencing higher growth rate of productivity output per hour in recent years. The dramatic improvement of computing power and communications and information technology appears to be a major force behind this beneficial trend.”

For example, IT has become the prime driver of research and development in the pharmaceutical sector.  Large scale industrialization of many aspects of bio medical research has been made possible due to IT.  IT has been a major factor in pharma +biomedicine in

  • decreasing cost and

  • processing time to make and market the finished product.

Another example is the benefits of banking on the Internet in terms of lower costs and speed of transaction. The cost of an electronic banking transaction is :

  • 127 times less than manual transaction

  • 54 times cheaper than telephone

  • 27 times less expensive than ATM.

Slide 4 : Services and Applications.gif The exploitation of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) has opened a Treasure Chest of Services and Applications enabling greater data storage, high speed high volume exchange of information and ability to work from anywhere on the move especially with the introduction of mobile digital services.

The services & applications obtainable from ICT will range from the fixed telephone to digitally delivered video +  audio to mobile Television.

This has led to spin off which can be harnessed to better our quality of life.  Hence if poor nations cannot harness these technologies, the yawning gap between the rich and poor will increase further.  This therefore is the reason to bridge the digital divide not only between nations but within a nation.

ICT will lead to globalisation of the economy & hence show us new ways to do business, conduct governance, impart education, improve health and quality of life, monitor and protect the environment and mitigate the effects of disasters and crisis.

These technologies, the mastery and effective utilization of which primarily depend on human competencies and collective intelligence, provide to developing countries like India, an exceptional opportunity to advance by leaps and bounds towards meeting our aspirations for progress and prosperity.

Because of its inherent strengths, especially in the field of IT, India can also become a strong global partner in ensuring that already deprived societies are not outstripped by the pace of technology.  In order to achieve success a true synergy between government and private sector and participation of civil society is essential.

AIM :  The thrust of my address today is to identify the ‘haves’ and ‘havenots’ of the ICT world, to evaluate India’s state of e readiness and e culture, and assess Indias ability to participate in the global mission to create a fully wired information society and thus bridge the digital divide.

 Slide 5: The Digital Divide.gif

  INTERNATIONAL ICT INDICATORS:

Let us first examine the database released by ITU to identify the nuances of the digital divide.  This bar graph depicts the relationship between the world population (in terms of income groups) and ownership of telecom & internet facilities.  The world population of approximately 6.1 billion in the extreme left bar is shown in different colours according to the income group.  If we look at the light blue portions – it shows that 15% of the world population (all in the high income group) own 55% of the fixed telephone, 65% of mobiles and 74% of internet.  Conversely it means that the low and lower mid income group which forms approx 78% of the world population has a dismally low proportion of Telecom & Internet Access.

Looking at it another way it means that 5/6th of the world population does not even own fixed telephones & 17/18th of the world population does not have internet access.

Thus our analysis is that majority of the 6.1 billion people who inhabit the planet have been completely shut off from the digital revolution and the consequent promises it holds.

Those countries who want to be ‘on line’ and have achieved success are the developed countries.  In developing markets affordability and awareness are still placing limits on Internet growth.  However, gradually there are more STD & ISD booths, more cyber cafes or Internet Dhabas  and a  larger  number of internet teaching institutions mushrooming in villages & rural areas  in the developing world.  The mobile phone is gradually penetrating hitherto under developed areas catalyzed by the introduction 2G (2ndgeneration GSM Technology).  The launch  of    3G (3rd generation) networks based on IMT 2000 is on the anvil in developed countries.  Thus the current disparity of economic, social and technical development of different countries create inequality and a growing digital divide.

 Slide 6: Regional Distribution.gif

    INTER – REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION

Graph  shows that Asia & Africa which together forms ¾ world population has access to ¼ of the internet and fixed telephone lines.  If we look at the distribution of internet and fixed telephone lines between continental regions we notice that in relation to population and poverty the digital infrastructure of Africa is the lowest.  Some developing countries in the Asia Pacific region appear to be growing rapidly.

But there are billions of people in Africa and remote areas of Asia who remain untouched by the ICT revolution because of  –

  • Ignorance of the English language
  • Complexity of learning PC usage
  • High cost of PC’s
  • Non – availability or High rates of access to internet.

Slide 7 :  Asia Pacific & India.gif

    INDIAN   ICT   INDICATORS

 Having seen the world and inter regional  ICT indicators let us put the microscope on India in relation to competing neighbouring countries in the Asia Pacific region.

India’s Internet user base increased 27% to 7 million in  calendar year 2001 – 2002 as against 5.5 million in 2000 – 2001.  While it is heartening to note India’s growing passion for internet in comparison, China’s Internet user based grew at 51% to 3.4 corers as against 2.25 corers last year.  While Japan recorded the highest user based of 4547 i.e. almost 50%.  In turns of population in India,  1 out of every 160 persons uses Internet, while in Japan every 2nd person does.  A gratifying factor is the number of hosts or Internet website (Hosts refer to the no of PC’s directly link to www) in India grew by 132% to 82979 in 2001 as against 34810 in 2000.  China & India are evenly matched in Internet host sites.

In case of deployment of PC’s China has 2.5 corers, India a mere 6 million i.e. 1 out of every 1600 person (Indian) owns a PC.

 DEPLOYMENT OF  IT

PC (lakhs)               PC per 10,000

CHINA                        250                                13.2

INDIA                           60                                  6.2

But statistics apart we need to know how outsiders dispassionately assess our capability to harness ICT or in other words, India’s state of E-Readiness.

 Slide 8 : McConell Report Potential ICT Competitors.gif

 McCONELL’S REPORT ON GLOBAL  E-READINESS

In August 2000 McConell International, a US consultancy firm produced a dispassionate report on Global E-Readiness which also included their perception of India’s ability to harness ICT, & our ability to participate in the Global Digital economy.  The report narrowed down its selection to 42 countries who are potential competitors in harnessing ICT.  India is fortunately in that list.

  POTENTIAL  ICT  COMPETITORS

EUROPE                                                –               17  Countries

AMERICA                                            –               08  Countries

AFRICA / MIDDLE EAST                 –               06  Countries

ASIA PACIFIC                                     –              10  Countries  }    CHINA                   These 10 countries

}     INDONESIA          constitute ¾ of the

}     INDIA                    worlds population,

}     S KOREA               but less than ¼ of

}     MALAYSIA           its GDP

}     PAKSITAN

}     PHILLIPINES

}     TAIWAN

}     THAILAND

}     VIETNAN

  Slide 9 : McConells Report – E Parameters.gif

  The McConnel Report rates there 42 countries on the basis of 5 criteria or E – Parameters on a rating of   Green,  Amber,  Red

E – Connectivity                                               RED

E – Leadership  / Governance               }

E – Security                                          }          AMBER

E – Learning or Human Capital             }

E – Business climate                             }

The parameters for E – Connectivity (RED) are :

  • Bandwith Availability
  • Network Access affordability & readability
  • Infrastructure – Power & Transportation
  • Effectiveness of Regulatory Mechanism.

Conclusion of Report :

The McConnel Report concluded that India was lagging woefully behind in three of the four parameters.

  •  Bandwidth availability            }          This was a WAKE UP call for Govt. and
  • Network Reliability                }          Indian Industry.
  • Power Supply                        }

This wake up call to Govt. pragmatic steps to ease regulations for access and a consequent scramble for bandwidth.  However in the field of Power Supply and National roadways infrastructure, particularly the former – we have a very long haul ahead.

  Slide 10 : Broadband Dreams.gif

  THE BANDWIDTH SCRAMBLE

The bandwidth crunch had virtually crippled the growth of the Internet, call centers and data service providers.  The demand for bandwidth which stood at 5 gigabites per second is expected to increase exponentially to 300 gbps. by 2008.

Since Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) provides the widest bandwidth (carrying capacity of 500 communications satellite transponders is less than one OFC fibers) initiatives have been taken by Railways, BSNL, VSNL, DOE, NIC, ONGC, GAIL, POWER GRID, Electricity Boards, Defence    & of course the Private Sector to create large OFC infrastructure which when intelligently dove tailed into each other will create a National information highway and an intelligent network of  Communication Systems, linked through satellite and other communication Systems.  Ultimately, Connectivity, reliability and usability on access networks are the mantra of success.

  Slide 11: Bandwidth Shopping Guide.gif

  To connect the National Information Infrastructure to the rest of the world, satellite technology, undersea cable and terrestrial networks infrastructure being created at a rapid pace.  It will not be long before India is hooked on the Global Information Infrastructure and be in a better position to compete in the global Economy.

Several other measures have been taken to improve access:

  •  Private ISP have been allowed to set up their own landing stations in collaboration with under sea bandwidth carriers.
  •  Toll free numbers would connect international tele-links to PSTN on either side of software export companies.
  • Drastic tariff reduction and steeper volume discounts will encourage better customer service.
  • Internet Telephony has been permitted from April 01, 2002.

Therefore we can be proud that despite other impediments, India has taken significant steps to enter the fully wired world.  Shri N Vittal former Chairman Telecom Commission says in his book ‘Information Technology – Indias Tomorrow’ “IT and Communications are the most decisive pervasive technologies.  The advantages we have in this field must be exploited to make this century, the Indian century.  To do this, we must leverage ICTs internet advantage and make India an economic super power”.

Slide 12: Gandhi ICT Trial Blazers.gif

  To examine whether we can become an economic super power through ICT, we must draw a comparison with the situation  in 1938, when India’s freedom was still a distant dream.  The Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi said ;

“A small band of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history”.

I have at random written the names of some of these determined spirits both in Govt. and in the private sector who have blazed the trail in the field of ICT for our technological and consequent economic progress.  There are several more I have not covered due to shortage of time.

Neither the economic gloom nor the terrorist attack of 11 Sept which shook the very foundation of Wall Street and stock markets all over the world could deter these modern heroes of the ICT revolution to move forward at a blistening pace creating along the way, greater profits and more job opportunities for Indians the world over.

  Slide 13 :Ganesh God of  Fortune.gif

  OUR IT STRENGTHS – SOFTWARE INDUSTRY

India has been recognized the world over as an important base for the growth and development of the software industry.  Some figures are worth analyzing here :-

1990                 Electronics & Computer Software

Turnover Software & IT Enabled Services                  Rs. 200 crores  Export Promotion Council ACTUAL 

By 00 – 01         Figs.  00 – 01

Export Level Software & IT NASSCOM Estimate       $ 6.3 billion         $7 billion [Rs. 32,288 crores]

IT Ministry Forecast       $ 6.2 billion

By 01 – 02

NASSCOM Estimate       $ 9.5 billion         $9 billion [Rs. 43,300 crores]

IT Ministry Forecast        $ 8.0 billion

By 2008

NASSCOM Estimate       $ 50 billion

IT Ministry Forecast        $ 87 billion

Despite the dot com debacle and global slow down, the growth in rupee terms was 37% this year.  According to NASSCOM Vision 2020, IT will contribute to 28% of Indias GDP by the end of the next two decades.  The National IT task force has set an export target of annual software and services at $ 50 billion by 2008.  However a joint NASSCOM – McKinsey study predicts a more optimistic estimate of $ 87 billion.

IT Services       $ 38.5 billion

IT Products      $ 19.5 billion

E – Business     $ 10.0 billion

  Slide 14 :Everything Official About It.gif

  Therefore it is obvious that software and  services exports are the fastest growing area of Indias economy.  To surge ahead globally, DOE is launching a specialized training programme in products and packages.  A Notional Centre for Excellence for providing high quality software and training  is being set up.

NASSCOM surveys indicate that the No of knowledge workers has increased from 4,30,000 in Mar 2001 to 5,20,000 by Mar 2002.  An addition of 1 lakh jobs in a year is the highest for any industry in the country.  The potential by 2005 is 2.1 million jobs (knowledge professionals).  All Highly Paid Software sector employees paid Rs. 1000 crores income tax in ’00-01.  By Mar 2005 IT (Income Tax) collection from software professionals will be Rs. 3500 crores.  An important factor has been the supportive  and progressive framework provided by Govt. policies which must be stable and positive.

  Slide 15: Success Stories.gif

  SOME SUCCESS STORIES /  FACTS

1.                  Out of the 38 software export level 5 certified firms in the world, 20 are in India.

2.                  About 138, Fortune 500 companies outsourced software services from India (But we cannot be complacent as stiff competition from China, Israel, Ireland and even Russia)

3.                  CMC has successfully completed Projects such as :

  • Management of Port systems in UK and Germany
  • Train scheduling System of London underground
  • Finger  print analysis & criminal tracing system to National Crime Record Bureau
  • Automated Trading System for more than a Dozen Stock Exchange.

4.                  Infosys has established an indepth  offshore testing Laboratory to conduct tests on most HW & SW platforms (to capture part of  $ 13 billion or Rs. 62000 crore market).

5.                  Inflex solutions (formerly Citicrop Infotech Industries)

  • major financial solutions selling back office banking systems to over 260 financial institutions
  • nob financial services.

6.                  TCS – has consolidated strength in all domain & technical areas – adding emerging markets in South Africa, Europe, West Africa & China.

(Has  82 offices in 23 countries)

7.                  The fact that NASDAQ is opening an office in Bangalore shows potential for more Indian companies to be listed on NASDAQ.

Already Infosys, Satyam, Rediff.com are among the top 15 non US companies in terms of market capitalization.

Though the success story of Indian software industry is unique, the hardware aspects of India Telecom & Electronics Industry is not very far behind.

ELECTRONICS / TELECOM INDUSTRY & HARDWARE ASPECTS :

Just as in the case of software industry, job opportunities and production output have increased in Electronics / Telecom Hardware

1981                          1997

Employment in electronics / manufacturing         Rs. 1,30,000                3,45,000

Production                                                        Rs. 855 crores              21,586 crores

To take advantage of growing world trade India has established 100% export oriented zones, and electronics / software technology parks. Areas of growth in the ICT component manufacturing industry cover telecom, consumer, optical & micro electronics, instrumentation, photonic technology, relays, switches, connectors and crystal products. Today, very high volume e- business environment has led to the need for storage Area Networks with increased information storage and reduced network throughput.

According to an Ernst & Young Study for Manufaturing Association of Info Tech (MAIT) India can corner 2.2% of the global contracting hardware market in areas like PCB assembly, power supply and semi conductor assembly.

Our share can translate into $11billion business by year 2010 and not competing in China’s domain.  With most components shipped to their financial destination, India apart from good engineering and labour  skills has some inherent advantages like excellent geographic location (since most freight today moves by sea/ship than air).  Indias proximity to Europe, Middle East & Africa market make it an excellent back end manufacturing lab”.

  Slide 16: Bill Gates.gif

  Bill Gates :

This is what Bill Gates had to say about India as late as April 12, 2002 in an e-chat with Economic Times –

“India is the only country other than US where we have done significant software export business.  In e-IT amount of work going on in India has actually helped us . First of all the quality … it gets very high marks.  And India has been able to keep improving and increasing the number of trained people coming out of its universities.  So even the number of jobs have gone up and there are good people taking those jobs.  India has weathered the tough period (for  IT) and that a very good sign.  I do think that the communication revolution will bring more than IT jobs to India – any job that requires education and accounting  skills or back office type skills.  Distance is not a barrier in getting talent.  India should be proud of that and I think it can get a very positive growth”.

However while we can take great pride in these words of the world’s richest human and expert in harnessing ICT as a business tool, we must remember that Bill Gates is not the United States.  The USA has remained India’s largest trading partner and most important source for technology.  American firms have increased their investments in India in manufacturing industrial and consumer goods.  In the recent past, US has shown greater understanding to India’s concerns due to our  common commitment to democracy. However old habits die hard, and occasionally, sections of US establishment have created confusion for themselves by thinking of Kashmir & Indo – Pak disputes, and our stand on the Nuclear proliferation Treaty when assessing Indo – US economic relations.  USA of course sees India as a major economic opportunity for its own capital.  We on our part must remember that economically, India needs USA more than USA needs India.  A more stable looking polity, and a better law and order situation should help attract larger investments and financing from abroad.  India should be seen as law abiding.  It is always important for Ceaser’s wife  to be seen as both faithful and honest.

E – CULTURE OR  CYBER CULTURE :

  In our efforts to bridge the digital divide, we need to support the creation of electronic or e culture or cyber culture, while at the same time conserve our local culture and values. The various facts of   e-culture are :

  • e – education &  e – learning
  •  e – governance / e – leadership
  •  e – health or e – medicine
  •  e – business or e – commerce
  •  e – security

The knowledge and information society should be committed to exploit the tools provided by ICT or promote e-culture to minimize the inequalities in society especially in the areas of education and health.

E – Education :

E – education is the e-sense of modern learning as it is essential to create the right milieu for e-culture and e-governance.  The digital divide can truly be bridged by ensuring that every child is exposed to basic literacy and basic ICT skills by the time he or she ends primary schools.  IT and communication Jobs do not demand too much  physical  effort and encourage both genders.  They provide equal opportunity to women to progress in society.  Gradually, computer education is being made an essential part of school curriculum.  For school level education, interactive TV and infrastructure developed by IGNOU and NIC with VSAT technology has made TV the “Second Teacher” or “Third Parent”.

The HRD Ministry has recently raised the budget allocation to All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) to concentrate on the national Technology Education System and Early Faculty induction Programme.  These encourage technical carriers and competent teaching faculty.

States like TN, Delhi, Karnataka, AP & Maharashtra who are aware that IT and telecom services will be the engines of economy and creators of wealth are competing with each other to get the broadcast bandwidth to link their cities with each other and globally.  In each of these states about 20 well established colleges will act as master E – classrooms.

Institution in other areas are linked by VSAT or OFC.  Lectures given  from these  master E classrooms are also put on CD-ROMs which are distributed for use. A member of IIITs have commenced seminar work in several states and MCA Programmes are being conducted by all universities. The IETE has for long been the prime mover in the field of ICT education and awareness. Other states all over the country have also followed the example of those who were first off the block.

E – Health

Many applications of ICT allow quicker exchange of health information, diagnosis and cure. The Karnataka Telemedicine Project through ISRO is building a special health satellite with 18 transponders to link superspeciality hospitals in urban areas to rural health care units in 27 districts. Medical history, data, images, X- Ray etc can be transmitted  to diagnose patients particulars and recommend cures.

Similarly, Doctor anywhere.Com is a B2B service that enables

  • local health centres in rural areas ( lacking internet ) to send diagnostic data to senior doctors on-line to seek  medical opinion
  •  real time information can be accessed on line since extensive WHO until in areas like food & nutritions, HIV/AIDs as well as resources for public health for disaster and complex emergencies, essential drugs or the quality/safety of medicines.

  E – Business

The benefits of e-banking area already known to you. Business operations on the internet realise 300% return on investment through e-procurement. For eg TELCO has contracted well over Rs 2500 crores of business on line. Maruti Udyog conducts more than 80% of its business with its distributers by electronic ordering through the WEB. But security is a vital aspect of digital economy.

E – Security

Digital economy is faced with the menace of domain and portal wars, hacker + cyber intrusions. India has enacted comprehensive cyber laws covering net transactions, digital signatures and records to safegaurd e-commerce activities. The ultimate e-security safegaurds are better encryption, firewalls & anti infiltration software against bugs/hackers.

These security system make networks more expensive. Money spent on e-security is money well spent. Any miserly approach will liken us to the old man who desired to exploit the benefits of the Viagra pill. However since he found the Viagra pill too expensive, instead of swallowing it, he continued to lick it everyday. Ultimately the only thing that happened to him was that he got up with a stiff tongue.

An excellent reference book on E-Security called “Secure or Perish” has been published by Maj Gen Yashwant Deva, President of IETE.

E-Governance / Leadership

Govt of India designated year 2001-2002 as the year of  e-governance. After seeing the success of AP, other states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan, MP & Tamil Nadu have followed suit. Chandrababu Naidue coined the word – SMART govt. – Small, Moral, Accoutable, Responsible & Transparent. Besides exploitation of education & health, ICT has been harnessed to streamline landrecords, creat website for downloading information, download applications & eliminate red tape by accepting fax/e-mailed  info. Farmers can get uptodate vaccination alerts for livestock.

Digitising Rural Areas

Rural and remote areas of our country undoubtedly need our focus of attention, the first priority being electricity and telecommunications after health and education. Govt of India has covered the aspect in the Telecom Policy as well as the Convergence Bill, stating that one of its principle objectives is to ensure that telecom services are available at affordable costs to all uncovered areas. The DOT with assistance from Army Signals has established over 75000 villages Public Telephones (VPT) in remote areas using Grameen Telephones based on CDMA /  WLL Technology.

Go to any village today and you will find the Kiranas shop prominently displaying a board “packet ka doodh, bread aur public telephone.” The telecom revolution fired by minds like Sam Pitroda is fast catching up with the milk revolution catalysed by Mr Verghese Kurien and the wheet revolution of Dr M S Swaminathan.

However the record of private industry in fulfilling its social obligations of providing affordable telecom in rural remote and tribal areas is dismal. New technology like remotely located satellite earth stations, V Sat, and little LEOs to establish low cost networks working on Solar Energy need commendation. This will go a long way in bringing the digital dream closer to the “have nots” of our society.

But how can telecom be ushered in those areas where two of the basic ‘e’s are missing names – electricity and knowledge of English language.  IREDA or the Renewable Energy Development Agency must intensify its marketing effots to ensure efficient and cheaper solar power is easily obtainable in backward areas. Efforts of Indian CDAC to develope & market cheaper multilingual computing products & userfiendly solution permitting the use of Indian Languages need to be encouraged. India MUST increase its power generation by 140 Gigawatts by 2007. Petty politics and corruption must be discarded and we must concentrate on  development of infrastructure in road transportation, highways, ports, railways & airports, side by side with space and satellite technology.

There are two important related issues we cannot afford to ignore in our race to digitisation – Spectrum Management and Regulation.

Specturm Management

It is wireless technologies that will dominate the next decade. As there will be a growing demand for mobile international roaming facilities and multimedia, there will be a dramatic rise in celluar (2G) subscribers on GSM, who will like to upgrade to 3G(IMT2000) standards. We need to therefore intelligently manage the spectrum to allow services using different bands while migration from 2G to 3G which will be a reality in India by 2008.

Regulation

There is no textbook solution on the best or most effective telecom regulatory framework. We should look to countries which have similar national goals as ours and create models and best practices to serve as guide posts till we are in a postion to deregulate altogether.

CONCLUSION

In my keynote address so far, I have attempted to enunciate the benefits of digitisation, the facets of e- culture that will pervade and digitised world, the digital disparity amongst nations and within ourselves. Above  all I have attempted to bring out, that our great nation has the potential to become an economic superpower through the harnessing of ICT that has thrown up immense employment opportunities.

India’s minister for IT & Communication Mr Pramod Mahajan has said in a recent seminar quote “In digital economy, globalisation becomes compulsory – a way of life – not a chance or a choice. Indian companies must stop competing amongst themselves. Maharashtra should not compete with Karnataka but with Malaysia. Bangalore not with Chennai but with Shanghai.” unquote.

  Slide 17: Chess.gif

  The minister’s message is clear – We should not compete but cooperate. “We should work selflessly to improve our position in the chess game for global supremacy in harnessing “ICT for economic prosperity. This way, we will not only bridge the digital devide, but also reap rich digital dividends.”

We should also not be selfish in our approach. Within our nation we must concentrate on remote areas like NE, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal, Assam, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Uttaranchal and J&K. As a future world power, we also need to help the poorer nations and people of the underdeveloped world in our immediate neighbourhood – Notably Srilanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and create condition for cooperation and normalcy in the SAARC Region. Ofcourse Afghanistan needs help.

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  “India has traditionally supported Africa financially and politically. In terms of   IT & Telecom development, Africa is still the most underdeveloped continent.

  Slide 19: Connecting Africa.gif

  India must support the community of United Nations to develop 56 countires of the African continent – not only as an investment opportunity but as a neccessary social obligation. This will enhance our prestige amongst underdeveloped countries all over the world.”

  Slide 20: Borderless World.gif

  “Our aspirations for a bright future can be met if we bridge the digital devide that exists both within our nation & between nations and create a borderless world.”

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  “We should fulfill our obligation to make the world smaller, friendlier, peaceful & more prosperous for all people in the universe by intelligently exploiting ICT.”

India has the potential. Let us not leave everything to Govt. If professional bodies like IETE, IRSTE, IEEE and IEE join hands with private sector, India can become a  world leader in exploiting ICT to convert the digital divide into a digital opportunity and make the digital dream a reality in terms of digital dividends.
Thank You
JAI HIND !


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